The Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (CCAH) – a non-profit, charitable organization – has had a presence in Oakville and surrounding areas for the past 40 years. Its events and initiatives are open to anyone who supports its mandate: to develop understanding of other cultures through programming that promotes mutual respect and acceptance among members of the Halton community. For the past three years, Sheridan has partnered with the CCAH, which in turn has provided students with learning opportunities that promote inclusion, embrace diversity and acknowledge Canada’s rich cultural character.
It’s a collaboration that “clicked” from the beginning, according to CCAH President Veronica Tyrrell. “Our four pillars – community, culture, education and harmony – are a natural fit with Sheridan’s values,” she says. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHASS) Associate Dean Sean McNabney echoes that sentiment and views the partnership as a valuable form of creative cultural exchange. “Students get a first-hand look at how their academic efforts can have a tangible, meaningful impact on our community,” he explains.
“We wanted students to understand that public history is at its heart an avenue for communication” – Dr. Christian Knudsen
Those academic efforts were showcased at a Black History Month kick-off event hosted at the Oakville Museum. Students studying in a Canada in the Making: Exploring Canadian History course exhibited public history posters they’d created that spotlight the contributions of black Canadians. Guests toured the display to read about historical figures like inventor and mechanical engineer Elijah McCoy and the first-recorded free black person in Canada: Mathieu de Costa. Posters also featured the experiences of Black Loyalists, the No. 2 Construction Battalion and African Canadians in the War of 1812 like the 1st Lincoln Militia of Niagara.
Professors Dr. Christian Knudsen, Dr. Peter Kikkert and Dr. Noula Mina provided guidance to the students, who worked in groups to synthesize existing research and media on their topic and repurpose it in a visually-compelling format. “We wanted students to understand that public history is at its heart an avenue for communication,” says Dr. Knudsen. “It performs an important social role and aims to raise historical consciousness among the general public.”
Introductory, elective courses in traditional humanities don’t often come with applied learning opportunities, notes Dr. Knudsen on the uniqueness of this project. “Those involved have seen the value of linking curriculum to real-world community needs,” he says. McNabney believes that in today’s climate, community partnerships like the one between Sheridan and the CCAH are especially important. “We can use creative cultural exchange as a tool for countering attitudes of exclusion,” he says.
During Black History Month the CCAH and the FHASS collaborated again with a screening of Journey to Justice as part of Sheridan’s ongoing Film for Thought series. The National Film Board documentary pays tribute to six Canadians who “took racism to court.” Tyrrell says: “Through education, film and the arts, we can expand the knowledge of heritage and history, build bridges and generate pride.”
Pictured at top of page: Public history posters created by Sheridan students on display at the Oakville Museum for a Black History Month kick-off event
Written by: Keiko Kataoka, Digital Communications Officer at Sheridan